An international controversy over safety certificates for passenger liners has forced Cunard Line to cancel two sailings out of Port Everglades, Fla., to the West Indies and the Caribbean, and has apparently jeopardized additional voyages during the important early winter cruise season, it was learned yesterday (Dec. 23).
The dispute has reportedly reached the highest levels in Washington where British officials are protesting the action of the United States Coast Guard in halting the sailing of the luxury liner CARMANIA to the West Indies Friday with 450 passengers on a 14-day trip.
The Coast Guard refused to certify the ship late last week, despite its certification by the British Board of Trade as to its compliance with terms of the 1948 International Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).
In a statement yesterday, Cunard officials said that the CARMANIA's January 11 sailing on a 12-day West Indies trip is still scheduled and that another Cunarder, the FRANCONIA is slated to sail January 18 from the Florida port to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
A hint of the developing dispute took place last month when the round-the-world passenger cruise liner ORSOVA, owned by P & O Steamship Co., another British line ran into difficulties as to safety certification with the Coast Guard at Port Everglades.
At issue specifically on the CARMANIA was glass door in the liner's first class dining room which the coast guard holds must be replaced by a steel door. Also, it is reported that the coast guard insists that a deck separating cargo holds from passenger quarters be insulated with steel and asbestos.
United States efforts to seek higher safety standards for passenger ships sailing out of American ports go back to the MORRO CASTLE disaster in the 1930's and reached a peak more recently with the fire on the YARMOUTH CASTLE.
Although officials on neither side are talking, the U.S. Coast Guard's action in refusing a safety certificate to the 1954 built ship has thrust up once again many of the same arguments which have engulfed this subject in the past. And, for the most part, they appear to involve, at bottom, important differences of interpretation that were thought to have been resolved in past years. Also brought into question was the Coast Guard's inspection practices.
The Coast Guard insists it checks each passenger ship as the law requires and if it doesn't measure up to the latest internationally-agreed standards to which it was built, plus the latest amendments which Congress by law insisted now must also apply, then a U.S. certificate may not be issued and the ship may not take passengers at U. S. ports.
The denial of such a certificate December 20 to CARMANIA cost Cunard Steam Ship $400,000 in fare refunds for one cruise and led to the cancellation of a second, shorter cruise, scheduled for early January.
St. John's Nfld., January 6, 1969 - The 7,000-ton British freighter ANDANIA was held in port under a Newfoundland Supreme Court Order while her agents bickered with the master of a Russian tug over salvage rights.
The ANDANIA, owned by Cunard of Great Britain and handled here by Bowring's Brothers Ltd., shipping agents, was towed into port by the Soviet ocean-going tug STEREGUS-CHIJ after radioing that her engines had quit in heavy seas 25 miles south of Cape Spear, Nfld.
Anatolia Zaitsev, master of the tug, claimed salvage of the freighter and the provincial court issued an order holding the ship in harbor until Bowring's either posted bond or settled with the Russians. Zaitsev said the amount of the settlement would be left up to the court.
The ship carrying 450 passengers, sailed Friday from Port Everglades, Fla., after the U. S. Coast Guard detained her there two weeks in a dispute over fire safety regulations. Two tugs were on their way to help refloat her.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.